August 29, 2010

Lapidary Verbiage

A summary of this article in the Guardian: Jonathan Franzen publishes yet another Great American Novel. The New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani praised its "visceral and lapidary" prose. Jodi Picoult tweeted "NYT raved about Franzen's new book. Is anyone shocked? ... Would love to see the NYT rave about authors who aren't white male literary darlings." This gave everyone some nice controversy to discuss for awhile, and the rest of us can feel slightly guilty every time we're enjoying a modern white male author. What bothered me about Picoult's criticism of the critic wasn't that she herself liked the novel, or that Franzen is a tool, or that she's a novelist using Twitter. It's this follow-up tweet in re Kakutani's use of the word lapidary: "Did you know what [it] meant when you read it in Kakutani's review? I think reviewers just like to look smart."

If you can't use juicy words like 'lapidary' in a New York Times book review, where the hell can you use them? Lapidary, by the way (I looked it up), means "pertaining to gems and precious stones, or the art of working them." So, yes, thank you Ms Picoult for suggesting I look up that gem of a word.

On a related topic, I'm working on a novel about angst & ennui behind the fa├žade of the American middle class family.

1 comment:

pele said...

I didn't have to look up lapidary, but I look up ennui every time I come across it, and I'm always disappointed that it doesn't have anything to do with poop. Can you do something about that? And it's French. The use of lapidary to describe prose IS a bit contrived, unless it's double entendre in context.